Quick, do you know how many Great Lakes there are in North America? The answer is five. The reason I know this is, the official name of the Great Lakes in Japanese is 五大湖 go-daiko or the Five Great Lakes. The Japanese love to codify the things around them into little lists to make them easier to manage, not unlike the classic Seven Wonders of the World ranking. These “most famous” mini lists are positively legion in Japan, and no matter what subject you’re interested in, there’s probably a “best” list for you. Have you read Shakespeare’s 四大悲劇 yondai higeki or Four Great Tragedies? I didn’t know there were only four of them, but this is the term the Japanese use to describe Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and King Lear. How about the 世界三大珍味 sekai sandai chinmi or Three Rare Delicacies of the World? They’re caviar, foie gras and truffles. How about 世界三大スープ sekai sandai soup, or the Three Great Soups of the world? They’re Bouillabaisse, Shark’s Fin and Tom Yan Kung. How about the Three Great Guitarists of the world? Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. If you’re planning an extended trip to Japan you might want to hit the 日本三景 nihon sankei, the Three Most Beautiful Views of Japan, which are the gnarled Japan Pines of Matsushima near Sendai in the Tohoku area, the view from the top of Amano Hashidate Mountain in Kyoto and the famous “floating Japanese arch” at Miyajima, near Hiroshima.
The islands of Matsushima were beloved of Date Masamune, the samurai who inspired Darth Vader.